County looks at controlling dogs deemed dangerous

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — Should Carroll County officials create a list of dangerous dogs that can be found around the county?
That was the question recently raised by Supervisor Sam Dickson at a county board meeting.
Dickson said he got the idea by reading a news article about other localities in Virginia having a “dangerous dog registry.”

“If they bite someone or attack — especially children — they end up on that dangerous dog registry,” the at-large supervisor said. “If they kill a companion dog or another small animal, you can get a court order and then they go on” the registry.
What good does that do?
“It makes [the dog owner’s] homeowner insurance go up and it also can cause them to have to muzzle that dog,” Dickson said.
The supervisor wanted to know if Carroll participates in such a registry and if the officials can publish the list somewhere so people can know where those dogs are.
County Attorney Jim Cornwell explained that, when certain criteria are met, a petition can be made to a general district court judge to declare the dog dangerous or vicious.
“It’s usually attacking a person, biting a person, killing a companion animal — there are some exceptions such as self defense [by] the dog,” the attorney said.
It’s fairly rare that a judge finds a dog vicious, Cornwell continued. In that case, the dog must be destroyed.
“If he declared the dog dangerous, then the dog is retained by the animal control officer for a period of time and, if the dog owner does not meet certain criteria, then the dog is destroyed,” Cornwell said.
To get back a dangerous dog, the owner has to get insurance, a kennel that meets certain standards and post a notice on the property about the dangerous animal, the attorney said. Additionally, the dog would need a muzzle to go outside and must always be on a leash.
At the present time, there are no dogs that have been declared dangerous in Carroll, County Administrator Gary Larrowe said. Any dogs declared dangerous have been surrendered and destroyed due to the expense of following the rules to keep them.
Two different people have approached Dickson with concerns about dogs, the supervisor explained. So far, those dogs have not bitten anyone.
The animal control officer won’t be able to do anything about those dogs until someone gets hurt, but Dickson hoped that getting the information out would help people get involved and know what to do.
For example, there was a woman who felt she couldn’t get out of her car because of a problem with a dog in the area.
“I don’t think that we can make a list of dogs that we think are dangerous,” Cornwell said. “I think the dog would have to be declared dangerous by the court.”
County officials agreed that if citizens have problems with dogs, they can call the animal control officer.
“So many people have tried that with dogs and they get nowhere, so they don’t bother anymore,” Dickson said.